10 tips from a teacher for making virtual school work

And they're all totally doable. For real.

virtual school tips
Photability/Twenty20

Parents are on edge this school year, not knowing what to expect with distance learning—or perhaps we're just remembering all too well the many challenges of distance learning last spring.

The nature of the COVID beast means that information is changing rapidly, and so are all the plans guided by that information... including school. This wait-until-the-last-minute way of living has been nerve-wracking to say the least, especially for those of us parents who rely on a color-coded schedule for each day to keep things moving smoothly.

As an educator and a mom of three, I knew I needed to try something different this fall to help set all of us up for a better experience with distance learning.

Here are a few tips that can help make the start of virtual school go a little smoother.


1. Check your attitude.

I know this is hard. Big time hard. Trust me. I have been in the house with three very active kids since March, and if I could safely send my kids to school, I would love nothing more than a day of peace and silence. But until it's safe to go back, make sure you project a positive attitude in front of your kids. This is a great opportunity to model how your family deals with difficult situations and overcomes challenges. I am not saying pretend everything is fine, but do try to keep your frustrations and anxieties from influencing your child's view of distance learning. Remember they are always listening and watching.

2. Create workstations.

I definitely went down the Pinterest rabbit hole with this one, but then I remembered my new life mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. The best remote-school work space is a desk or table, preferably near natural sunlight, with a few sheets of paper and plenty of sharpened pencils. We know that our rising fourth grader can work independently in his room so our dilemma was figuring out where to set up our rising first grader. While he could work next to dad in the office, we all know that means nobody would get much of anything done. If we set him up at the dining room table, I would have to keep the toddler away from him all day so that's a big not-gonna-happen. We decided that he would be able to focus best if he also works in his room at his own desk where I can still check on him without the toddler making a surprise Zoom appearance.

3. Set your kids up for success.

Is your child a little wiggle worm who struggles to sit still for longer periods of time? Consider getting an exercise ball or a wiggle pillow. (We set clear expectations for these two items.) Make sure to allow for time before school starts for kids to be able to get used to these new "toys." Losing some of the novelty will hopefully keep kids from bouncing on the ball too much (wishful thinking?). Since our boys are very, very active, setting them up for success also involves being physical before classes start. We live in a neighborhood that spans an .8 mile circle, which is just the right amount for my kids to jog twice. Though they complain about having to do this, they always return in a better mood and more awake than when they left.

4. Ask kids what they think will help them.

My boys requested play-doh, fidget spinners and a zen garden. They know that they need something in their hands and these are ways that they can engage in sensory work while still paying attention to their teacher. As a teacher, it was difficult for me watching my kindergartener build Lego during his Zoom session. He didn't "look" like he was paying attention—but he was. He even cried on the last day of his summer class. It was an important reminder for me that paying attention looks different for each kid.

5. Teach kids how to get (and stay) organized.

Pin passwords and Zoom log-in information right on their desk where they can see it. This will alleviate the frustration of trying to log into various Zooms and not remembering each teacher's information. Then, show your kids that when classes are done for the day, they need to have a spot for their homework and folders for their various subjects. Everything needs to have a spot and their space should be tidied up each day. I have found that my kids often don't know what I mean when I say "tidy" so I try to be as specific as possible. "Pencils and pens belong in the pencil holder" or "Homework goes in this folder so it doesn't get lost" is clear and specific.

6. Post individualized positive affirmations.

I have seen sheets of affirmations that can easily be printed offline but the best ones are the ones made with your child. At the beginning of each baseball training session, my husband asks my boys to yell "I CAN DO THIS!" Though it took me some getting used to this yelling, I quickly saw the benefits and effects. My 6-year-old's confidence was increasing session after session and missed hits did not lead to melt-downs anymore. Create a sheet of positive statements with your child that they will read daily and start to internalize.

7. Use emojis for quick check-ins.

Communicating feelings can be tricky, especially when the feeling is not straightforward. Especially when it comes to things like Zoom fatigue, I know I need to equip my kids with new terminology so they can express themselves. Putting a piece of paper with a variety of emojis in a clear sheet allows kids to circle the picture of how they are feeling. This can be wiped down daily (or hourly) and used again the following day. Even if my kids don't know what they need and can't put a name to the feeling, it's helpful for me to see what they have circled.

8. Involve the neighborhood in outdoor time.

I am thrilled that our local elementary school decided on a long lunch break, from 11:30 am to 1 pm. That gives kids enough time to eat and then play outside from 12-1 pm. We are hoping to set up some kind of neighborhood rotations that would allow kids to play safely outdoors in different yards during this "recess" time. If that idea doesn't come to fruition, I know my kids will be riding bikes and playing outside during this hour.

9. Establish clear expectations for screen time.

In order to avoid melt-downs in regards to screen time, we have been up front with our kids that things will change once the school year gets started. Since the majority of the day will be spent in front of screens, video games will have to wait until the weekend. Of course, they balked at this change of their routine, but at least now they have a few more days to get used to this change.

10. Communicate with the teacher.

Although I have been a teacher for over a decade, I still get nervous about how my kids will do in other classes. As if my kids will be the only ones who struggle with distance learning. I know better. Yet, talking to my friend who teaches elementary school made me feel so much better. I just needed to hear what I already knew from another teacher. Of course the teachers will be understanding, of course the teachers will work with my kids, of course my kids aren't the only ones who will get off track. Teachers are super nervous and I know from my various online teacher groups that they, as always, just want to be the very best for your child. Partner with your child's teacher. And let's all remember to go into this bizarre school year ready to show our kids, our teachers and selves some grace.

Tackling distance learning at your house this fall? We've got some products that can help.

Dough Parlour fruit set

Dough Parlour fruit set

These fruity play doughs are scented with 100% food-based scents and combine unmatched textures and gorgeous hues to create the ultimate sensory experience.

$22

Plan Toys child's round table

Plan Toys child's round table

Little learners will love this table designed with kids in mind. The surface doubles as a chalkboard, while the storage space in the middle is an ideal place to store toys or art supplies.

$120

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Pairs perfectly with the round table and provides littles with a kid-sized place to learn and focus.

$65

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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BABYBJÖRN

This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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15 stylish back-to-school haircuts for kids

Give them back-to-school confidence with a fresh new style.

Jetta Productions Inc / Getty

With a fresh haircut, your child can get a major confidence boost in time for the first day of school. With back-to-school season in full swing, book those hair appointments soon in time for classes to be in session. Whether your child wants a simple haircut, an intricate hair style, or even hair dye for kids, there are plenty of options to consider before school starts.

Boost confidence for the first day of school with one of these hair cuts for kids.


1. Fringe

An easy way to create a whole new look is to add fringe. Piecey bangs over the forehead can give your child extra confidence as they prepare for the first day of school.

2. Fade

For shorter styles, the fade is a popular haircut for kids these days. Plus, with summer's high temperatures still in full swing during back-to-school season, this hairstyle will also keep kids cool.

3. Bob

Another cooling option, the shorter bob style offers a lot of versatility. Go for a short bob with a length that lands around the ears, or keep it long for a "lob" that hits just above the shoulders.

4. Hidden undercut

This hairstyle involves shaving the hair around the bottom half of the back of the head. It usually often includes shaving a pattern. With hair left down, you can't tell this cool feature is there, but pull hair up into a ponytail or bun, and the pattern is an artistic addition to any hairstyle.

5. Braids

Try out classic braids in natural hair for a protective style that is also long-lasting with easy maintenance. Add beads or bows for a cute addition that will complement any first-day outfits, too.

6. Mohawk

For a spunky look, shave hair into a mohawk that is longer on top and shorter on the sides. Use gel to style the mohawk, including in the iconic spikes that stand straight up.



7. Faux hawk

If your child isn't quite committed to shaving the sides of their head, you can also try a temporary faux hawk by pulling hair taut along the sides of the head and pinning it into place with longer pieces on top. This also works great with curly hair.

8. Crop

The crop is a simple, straightforward hairstyle that will look fresh for the first day of school and will also be easy to care for each morning. That's right—finally, no fights about brushing the hair before the bus comes!

9. Hair dye for kids

If your child is more experimental, you might try temporary hair dye for kids. Let them choose their favorite color, and add a few stripes throughout their hair for a bold but school-appropriate hairstyle.

10. Quiff

The quiff features a long, side-swept top with shorter, often faded sides. It's an on-trend look that isn't overly fussy, although a little gel or pomade in the mornings can help keep the longer hair on top stay in place.

11. Deva cut

You love those perfectly curly ringlets in your child's hair, so take care of them with the proper haircut! The Deva cut is designed especially for naturally curly hair. It involves the stylist cutting dry hair, so they can better shape hair to the natural curls. The result? Full, bouncy curls that will give your child all the confidence they need for heading back to school.

12. Pixie

A tousled pixie haircut for kids will look stylish and refined with minimal effort. Plus, it's a shorter style that will keep kids cool as they run around outside for recess.

13. Asymmetrical

An asymmetrical cut will offer a unique, interesting style that plays well with a variety of different hair textures and thicknesses. Plus, you can easily accessories with various clips or bows on one side.

14. Buns

As far as hairstyles for kids goes, buns can be as easy or complex as you'd like. Pull all the hair back into one chic, effortless messy bun, or add braids and hair accessories for a more formal look.

15. Crew cut

The classic crew cut will offer an adorable and timeless look. It's an especially great style for kids with thicker hair.

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